By Blair Ames, firstname.lastname@example.org
8:53 AM EDT, March 29, 2013
A comprehensive zoning request before the Howard County Planning Board would allow an apartment complex with more than 1,000 units to be built on 91 acres across from Reservoir High School in Fulton.
But some Fulton residents say area roads and schools are not suited to handle the influx of new residents.
"If you basically quadruple the number of units from what's there now to what's being proposed, it's going to be a mess," Fulton resident Jeff Regner said. "The roads just aren't designed to handle it."
Regner said before school begins at Reservoir High School, traffic backs up along Scaggsville Road from the school to Route 29.
More than 55 residents spoke on various comprehensive zoning requests Wednesday during the nearly five-hour planning board hearing. At times, there was standing-room-only for residents who filled the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building.
It was the first public hearing in the comprehensive zoning process, which follows every update of the county's general plan. It offers the county an opportunity to begin implementing the vision laid out in the general plan, PlanHoward 2030, while allowing the county to review its zoning regulations and citizens to submit zoning requests.
The Planning Board's next hearing on zoning requests is April 8 at 6 p.m. in the Glenelg High School auditorium. The board will accept written testimony on zoning requests until April 12, according to board chair Dave Grabowski.
Maple Lawn Farms Inc. has requested rezoning 91 acres along Scaggsville Road across from Reservoir High School. The property is currently zoned rural residential, but Maple Lawn is seeking the R-A-15 zoning, which would allow for 15 units per acre.
The current zoning allows for one home per three acres.
Under PlanHoward 2030, the property was incorporated into the Planned Service Area for public water and sewer.
More than 25 residents opposed to the zoning change attended Wednesday's hearing citing traffic and school overcrowding concerns in opposition to the zoning.
Fulton Elementary, Lime Kiln Middle, and Reservoir High schools sit across Scaggsville Road from the 91 acre site, but are all operating slightly under capacity this school year.
A petition circulated by residents has garnered more than 220 signatures, according to Highland resident Ruth Lyons.
"As one petition signer put it 'This is dumb growth,'" Lyons said to the planning board.
Nearby, the Buch Family Limited Partnership has requested the rezoning of six acres along Johns Hopkins Road from a business district to R-A-15, allowing for apartments.
Owners say the property is underdeveloped and has the potential for "substantial development" in their application.
Some residents also opposed rezoning almost two-and-a-half acres on Fair Street in Savage from commercial to residential. Savage Mill Remainder, LLC, has requested a change from B-2, a commercial district, to R-A-15.
The owner argues that the property is more suitable for residential development because of its proximity to residential neighborhoods and the Patuxent River. The property is only accessible via Washington Street through a community, which would affect nearby residents if developed commercially, according to the rezoning application.
But residents say the area is not suitable for residential development for the same reasons its not suitable for commercial.
"You'll change not only the landscape of the park, but of the entire town, " said Susan Garber speaking on behalf of the Savage Community Association.
Other residents opposed the rezoning of more than seven acres on Waterloo Road from rural conservation to B-1, a business district. Once a part of the "Curtis Farm," the property is now surrounded by commercial and residential, both townhome and condominium, development.
The Lois Lucille Curtis Revocable Trust has requested the B-1 zoning for more "economically feasible options in the current market for the use, preservation and maintenance of the Farmstead," according to its application.
Elliot Cowan, speaking on behalf of the Shipley's Grant homeowners association, said the neighborhood is against the proposal because the open space is a focal point for the community and granting the owner B-1 zoning would be a "blank check."
"The B-1 zoning that would basically, once granted, allow them to do many things without community approval," he said.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of Daisy Crossroads' request to change the conditional use regulations for properties zoned B-1 or B-2 that would allow for residential buildings.
Located in the Woodbine's Warfield Grant subdivision, Daisy Crossroads is looking to develop a nearly two-acre site into a "multiplex," comprised of four residential units. But current zoning regulations require sites in B-1 and B-2 be at least five acres for residential development.
Ted Mariani, managing member Daisy Crossroads, said the group purchased the property afraid that someone else would develop it in a way that negatively impacts the community.
"By the filing of this petition, we are seeking to minimize any negative impact on the surrounding residential community by developing a less intensive use on commercially zoned property," he said.